Food peeps are notoriously predictable in their calendar of coverage--Summer means lots of writing on barbecue, grilling and burgers. Not JUST burgers...retro burgers! Nuevo burgers! Retro-nuevo burgers, so that we may justify another year of reinventing burgers! GAHHH!
I like drippy burgers and BBQ. I can chase banh mi and prose-like cocktails with the best of them. But with blogs and pubs piping out fall trends (what shall we pickle and braise now???) it's hard to work up excitement over food and food coverage of late, and that includes my own.
And then it became obvious...who gives a sh*t?? Procrastination makes fools of us all (okay, ME) and I'm not going to let 'lil things like seasonal propriety keep me from telling you what you should've ate this summer...and can still eat, if you're not too busy trying to chase the newest stupid foodie craze.
Case in point: The Back Forty Crab Boil. Logic dictates that piles of steaming blue crabs on newspaper go the way of flipflops and white linen past Labor Day...but why?
The Decapod Destroyer (dear friend, employer, and all-round seafood enthusiast) and I had caught wind of the boiled crab bonanza last year, but sadly missed the cutoff date. This year, we were 2 crazed otters on a mission...which yielded 3 weeks of "sorry, seats are sold out" auto replies. Cruel, cruel summer.
Because I had played the online reservation lottery a few times, the restaurant had my email address; they took it upon themselves to contact me, announcing that in order to accommodate the overwhelming popularity of the crab dinners, they were setting aside 5 days of nothing but all crabs, all the time, with people who had been rejected as the key audience.
How AWESOME is that???
This restored my faith in humanity, in hospitality, and that's no overstatement. After years of building up a thick dining skin in NY, tolerating sub-par entitled service, price gouging, and impossible booking practices, Hoffman reversed the tide with something simple, distinct, and priceless: You want crab. We want to serve you crab. So come and let us serve you crab.
And serve crab they will, every Tuesday until the end of the month, September 29th. To book a table, please visit Back Forty's site for the rundown on the crab rezzy procedure.
If you're real flush and have 14 crab-eating friends, they'll even let you book an entire table exclusively for your crab-eaters, from Wednesday - Saturday.
Plus, trends are WRONG! As summer-invoking as crab boils are perceived, northeastern crabs are actually better in September, sayeth the Hoffman:
Crabs only improve as the season progresses. They are growing, eating, and building up energy stores for a long winter buried in the mud flats. So by September the meat is even fuller and richer. (via NYMag)
This isn't a dinner for the prissy, or faint of heart, or even those set on pure gluttony (I think it's physically impossible to pick and eat enough crabs to constitute bloated fullness). So what's the appeal?
Full-contact food. It's not something that happens enough anymore, especially in Manhattan. Only go with someone you like enough to be disgusting in front of. The Decapod Destroyer and I settled into the long communal table, side-by-side, ready to splash and be splashed by mallet-wielding strangers who had no qualms about sucking out shells.
We shared little bowls of yucca and salted cod fritters, chit-chatted with NYU parentals and lost Chelsea gays, and when the staff came out and up-ended buckets of Old-Bay crusted creatures on our tabletop, we cheered, raised tall glasses of beer and fell-to, armed with nothing but said mallets, butter knives, a stack of paper towels and a quick crab-dismantling tutorial by a helpful waitress.
It took Decapod Destroyer no less than 10 seconds to lose hold of a claw he was twisting off; it bounced of my blouse bunnies and landed on the table (hurray, still viable eats!).
The crabs were briny, sweet, and cloaked in Old Bay; juices and gobs of wet spice were flying indiscriminately. Back Forty will lay 3 rounds of critters on you, which is more than enough for an average person to become either satiated or just tired of picking crabs.
We passed around cobs of sweet grilled corn and toothsome red-skinned potatoes drizzled in herb butter. Sadly, there was only one round of these, but maybe it's because no one had the stones to ask for more.
As we wiped ourselves down with hot towels and forked up our blueberry and rhubarb cobbler with heavy whipped cream, a lovely sliver-haired woman mused aloud: "It seems odd now, watching the lot of you use utensils."
Destroyer had gotten her in the chest with a flying claw, too. She laughed, took it with good grace...and kept the claw.
190 Ave B
(Btwn E 12th & 11th)
NYC, NY 10009